Calumet, A fun step


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Sep 25, 2007
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I took a big step forward and picked up a 4X5 calumet view camera on an 18" monorail. It has a Caltar II - E 6.8 210mm lens and a nice tripod. It also came with a 65mm lens and a few film holders.

I'm hoping to get a chance to try it out in a couple of weeks. It'll take me at least that long to read a couple of books on it and how to use it correctly.
I was actually looking for a bronica or one of the mamiya medium format cameras when I saw this one and caved pretty quickly.

There's something about the huge camera and the bellows that got to me. Now I need an enlarger that can take a 4 x 5 inch negative carrier!

The Caltar is a great lens. Is it a Rodenstock or a Schneider Caltar?
Hi Max, This is an entry level lens and from what information I've found, it's a generic supplied by Calumet. The seller said it was a super sharp lens though.

It should work for my purposes as an amateur looking to do portraits of my dogs and to learn hand coloring sometime in the future!

I would love to find out it was made by Rodenstock or Schneider, but I doubt Calumet would sell them as reasonably as they do if they were.

Large Format photography is really an experiment for me and if I find I can't get good results, I'll sell it and try something else!

This is all about the fun of learning something new for me and any and all help and information offered is sincerely appreciated!:hail:

Congrats and good luck with your new outfit!

Here is some info on the Caltars written by Kerry Thalmann:

"Rodenstock has been making the Caltar II-N line for Calumet since 1984 and the Caltar II-E line since 1986. The Caltar II-N series are private label version of Rodenstock's Grandagon-N and APO-Sironar-N lines. They are made in the same factory by the same workers and are identical in all respects except for the name on the lens, who handles warranty service and the price. The Caltar II-E series are private label version of Rodenstock's 150mm and 210mm three-element Geronar lenses.

From 1965 - 1984 Caltar lenses were made by five different manufacturers on three different continents. For these older Caltars, figuring out just who made what and when can be a bit confusing. I had an article on the history of the Caltar lenses published in the May/June 2003 issue of View Camera magazine. Included in the article are the basic specs on every Caltar lens made from 1965 to the present. Of course, for the current products it's easy to find the specs online. It's mostly the older Caltars where things start to get confusing."

I have a couple of earlier Caltar lenses and they perform every bit as well as the Schneider Symmar-S lenses that they really are. As Kerry says, there is no real difference apart from the name. I'm sure that you will be very pleased with your Caltars. I like the 210 mm on 4x5 quite a lot. What is the 65 mm lens you have?

There's a lot of information on the use of LF cameras, film loading etc over at

Welcome to the world of large format. I'm looking forward to hearing more of your new adventure.

Best wishes,
The 210mm is a great portrait lens, btw.
Hi Helen, This was a surprise to me. I got started on the deal and we had a death in the family and I completed my obligation while I was kind of on autopilot.

What I actually ended up with was a Rodenstock 127mm ysarex, that I haven't even had time to do any research on. The ad above it was for the 65mm but this one was a fraction of the 65mm price.

I do know that it was on another type of camera before and that it will cover a 4x5.

I answered the ad with an I'll take it and got a great price at any rate!

I'm still thinking I need a 65mm but it will have to wait until after the Holidays

Hi Bill,

The Ysarex is a decent lens. It was the normal lens on the Polaroid 110 series (and others) and it covers 4x5, as you say. There isn't much room for movements, however. It's usable wide open, with its own sort of look.

I would suggest having a look at 90 mm to 105 mm lenses instead of the wider and generally more expensive 65 mm. Think of the 90 mm as being like a 28 mm on a 35 mm camera. This focal length is much more common than 65 mm lenses that will cover 4x5. Wide-field Ektars and Angulons are OK, and reasonably priced. Super Angulons, Nikkor-SW and others have more coverage, but at a higher price.

Unless your dogs are made of stone, you are probably not going to be happy using the camera for dog portraits. :D

I used my 4x5 cameras to do portraits of our dogs for a while. And even though they loved getting their pictures taken (they go nuts when I get my camera out and push and shove each other to be the one on the posing box) and I was using quickloads with one 4x5 I found that I was missing to many shots while I changed and then re-focused if the dogs moved. I fianlly ended up shooting Polaroaids with one of them and using the other only occasionally. Then I got into digital and I've not done more than look at them and the film in the fridge since.

Rather than get an enlarger, get a flat bed scanner that will do negatives. You can get some pretty decent scans from the negatives that way. It's been awhile, but back when I shot 8x10, since I didn't have access to an enlarger for that size, I did contact printing. It's hard to be the clarity and depth of a large format negative that's been contact printed.

Have fun and good luck with the dogs.

Many thanks to my internet friends, Helen, Mike, Max and JC1220 for the help and information.

Helen the search is on for a 90mm or so lens after the holidays. I always look forward to your helpful advice.

I'm lucky with our portrait dogs, they are used to "stacking" which is a striking pose with the dogs standing still on a table while the show judges check them over.

I do use the digital a good bit as well as my stand by 35mm and it surprises me at times some of the shots that capture unexpected elements such as a look on their faces that suddenly captures part of their personalities that make them special photographs.

I would suggest having a look at 90 mm to 105 mm lenses instead of the wider and generally more expensive 65 mm. Think of the 90 mm as being like a 28 mm on a 35 mm camera. This focal length is much more common than 65 mm lenses that will cover 4x5.

Agree. You'd probably need some kind of bag bellows and recessed lens board to work with the 65mm, which is pretty darned wide for 4x5.

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